Family recalls legacy of 15-year-old killed in St. Petersburg shooting

The suspect in the shooting had also been arrested in November in connection with a fatal hit-and-run.
Zykiqurio Lofton, 15, was fatally shot on Dec. 29. He had moved to Georgia with his grandmother, but was visiting family for the holidays in St. Petersburg.
Zykiqurio Lofton, 15, was fatally shot on Dec. 29. He had moved to Georgia with his grandmother, but was visiting family for the holidays in St. Petersburg. [ Courtesy of Jessica Lofton ]
Published Jan. 7|Updated March 6

The 15-year-old boy was just supposed to visit St. Petersburg for the holidays.

Zykiqurio Lofton had moved to Georgia over the summer with his grandmother. They drove back to Tampa Bay in December to celebrate Christmas and his mom’s and aunt’s birthdays with family.

Related: UPDATE: 3rd teen arrested in St. Petersburg death of 15-year-old boy, police say

But on Dec. 29, Lofton was fatally shot at 9:10 p.m. near the 1500 block of Ninth Avenue South. He was taken to the hospital, where he died of his injuries.

The following day, St. Petersburg police arrested 17-year-old Deonte Bishop and charged him with first-degree felony murder in Lofton’s death.

Bishop had been arrested about a month earlier in connection with a fatal crash. Police said he drove into another car at the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street South and 30th Avenue and fled the scene. The other car’s driver, 87-year-old Denry Gayle, was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg and pronounced dead.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Lofton’s family is grappling with the death of Zykiqurio, who was just a few weeks short of his 16th birthday.

“This baby has lost his life on a senseless act of violence,” his mother, 32-year-old Jessica Lofton, said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Vicki Glenn, Zykiqurio Lofton’s grandmother, remembered going grocery shopping with him.

“Push me, Grandma, push me,” he would tell her, hopping onto the end of her shopping cart.

He said wanted to be a counselor, working somewhere like the YMCA, and mentor teens, his family said. He loved kids — he was the oldest of five and had an aunt who just turned 9 years old this month.

“He just loved being around people,” Glenn said.

Lofton also was a dog lover and enjoyed caring for a blue-nosed pit bull the family had at one point. He attended John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg before he moved away. He played football, both as a quarterback and a tight end, and enjoyed basketball, too.

“He loved to get outside,” Glenn said. “And he was a quick learner.”

His grandmother had been homeschooling him during his first semester of high school in Georgia, while the family adjusted to the move. But he was looking forward to attending an in-person school again and being in a classroom with other students, Glenn said.

Lofton’s family said he was out with two of his brothers, visiting their friends, the night he was killed. He told his brothers to go home and said he would be on his way.

His brothers got home around 8:40 p.m., Jessica Lofton said. They said Zykiqurio was on his way. However, at 9:14 p.m., Jessica Lofton found out that her son had been shot.

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She rushed to the scene, but when she got there, she said she wasn’t allowed to see her son before he was taken to a medical facility. The hospital was on lockdown and didn’t let family talk to him, either.

“That moment was very critical for me, to see my son,” Jessica Lofton said. “But they never let me see him.”

St. Petersburg Police Department spokesperson Ken Knight said that while he doesn’t know the specifics of what happened at the scene that night, police try to prioritize saving the victim’s life and preserving the crime scene. Still, he said, he sympathizes with the family’s frustration.

“We completely understand that,” he said.

On Dec. 30, at 12:30 a.m., police arrested Bishop on charges of carrying a concealed firearm and possession of marijuana with intent to sell. Later that day, they announced that he also was the suspect in Zykiqurio Lofton’s death.

Police spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez said Bishop had been released on Dec. 19 while awaiting trial for the hit-and-run case and was wearing an ankle monitor. Bishop’s father, Ricky Bishop, also faces a charge in the hit-and-run case — a misdemeanor charge of allowing an unlicensed person to drive his vehicle resulting in a crash involving death. Authorities said Deonte Bishop was driving his father’s car when the collision occurred.

Deonte Bishop is currently being held at the Pinellas County Jail. His father declined to speak about the criminal charges and referred a Tampa Bay Times reporter to his attorney. Ricky and Deonte Bishop’s attorney for the hit-and-run case could not be reached for comment Friday.

Fernandez said detectives believe Deonte Bishop targeted Zykiqurio Lofton because they were affiliated with rival neighborhood groups. Bishop was believed to have been part of a group out of the Child’s Park neighborhood, while Lofton was affiliated with a group in Bethel Heights, Fernandez said.

Glenn said she was not aware of her grandson having an affiliation with any neighborhood groups.

“I’ve also asked my grandson that, and he’s often told me ‘no,’” she said.

Since Lofton’s death, his family has received an outpouring of support from the community. His friends’ parents have reached out to share about the impact he had on their lives, and family members said they’ve even heard from people who knew him when he was in preschool.

“Zykiqurio was a leader. He was very powerful,” Jessica Lofton said. “When Zykiqurio walked in a room, you could feel his presence because when he walked, he walked with his head held high.”

The family has started a fundraiser to help raise money for funeral costs, which can be found on the GoFundMe website.